When the Houston Rockets traded a heavily protected second-round pick, the thought behind the trade was to take a chance on a player that had fallen out of favor with the Cavs. Instead, the Rockets saw potential in the 6'6” guard and decided to move Porter Jr. from small forward to point guard.
Porter Jr. was sent down to Rio Grande Valley Vipers, the Rockets’ G-League affiliate, to open the G-League season on February 10th, 2021. It didn't take Porter Jr. long to show why the Rockets made the trade. Two weeks into the season, Porter Jr. had the first triple-double of the year in the G-League. He quickly showed that his skills and potential were not the reason the Cavaliers decided to part ways with the young guard.
Eventually, Porter Jr. would join the Rockets, and on April 29, he made history when he scored 50 points and dished out 11 assists in the Rockets’ win vs. the Milwaukee Bucks. Porter Jr. became the youngest player in NBA history to record 50 and 10 in a game. He was well on his way to becoming a fan favorite in Houston as the season came to a close.
As we all know, playing point guard in the NBA is difficult, especially when trying to learn the position for the first time while playing in the NBA. This season has had its ups and downs for Porter Jr., which has led some people to wonder if he can ever become a traditional point guard. So let's answer that question right now. The answer is no, and that is perfectly fine.
Why Kevin Porter Jr. does not need to be traditional to succeed at point guard
Many people think of Magic Johnson or Chris Paul when thinking of the point guard position. Both are pass-first point guards who want to get everyone around them involved before they look for their shot. In 2022, being a pass-first point guard is an antiquated way of looking at the position now.
Look around the league and see that the traditional point guard is a dying breed. Go through each roster and come across more Ja Morant-type point guards than Lonzo Ball. Teams like the Nuggets and Bucks run their offense through their big men, and their guards are not the primary ball handlers. Most point guards now are combo guards who are only point guards on paper.
That brings us to Porter Jr., who has shown plenty of flashes of good court vision but has also struggled with keeping the offense moving and over-dribbling. The popular sentiment amongst people who believe Porter Jr. should be moved to the bench or small forward is that he hinders Jalen Green's development. If two straight months of incredible play and five straight 30-point games hinder growth, then every rookie in the league needs to have a Porter Jr. on the court.
Porter’s turnovers are down from last year, and in his previous five games, he had 33 assists and 17 turnovers. As pointed out earlier, most of your point guards are guards who can score like a shooting guard but play point guard. Another reason that Porter Jr. doesn't have to be a traditional point guard because you have one of the best passing big men already in Alperen Sengun. As the season has gone along, the Rockets use Sengun as a point center at the top of the key running the offense.
The Denver Nuggets are a perfect example of what the Rockets could become when looking at your big being your best passer. Nikola Jokic is the Nuggets’ point guard who happens to play center. When Jamal Murray is healthy, he is the point guard on paper, but in reality, he is a shooting guard at the point. The NBA is becoming a position-less league where labels and tags are a thing of the past. Once the league was all about putting players in a box. Now players are interchangeable when it comes to positions.
The Bucks won a championship with Jrue Holiday at the point guard position. Holiday is a shooting guard, and the Bucks run their offense through Kris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Kevin Porter Jr. does not have to become Chris Paul for the Rockets to succeed. Porter Jr. does have to improve his decision-making and become a better leader, but that will come with time. It may feel like Porter Jr. is 25 or 26, but he is only 21 years old trying to learn a position in the NBA that most players have been learning since junior high.
Is it a lock that Porter Jr. will be the point guard in two or three years? Probably not.
But he has shown enough potential that he should be given another year to show if he can be the point guard of the future.